An employee's suicidal intent is a delicate situation that requires an appropriate reaction.
Therefore, it is very important to understand what leads to suicide, to figure out which questions to ask, and to know how to refer the person at risk to the right resources.
Statistics show that about 8 out of 10 people show signs that can alert their loved ones to their problems and their intention. However, it is not always easy to understand the message clearly.
So how can we recognize a suicidal person?
Suicidal intent is detected through a series of warning signs. Here are a few.
The individual uses revealing expressions such as:
- "I'm going to kill myself";
- "I want to die";
- "I'll never pull through";
- "You'd be better off without me";
- "Soon, you'll be at peace";
- "I wrote my will".
There are also behavioural clues such as:
- a radical or gradual change in attitudes and behaviours;
- giving away objects of sentimental value;
- withdrawal and isolation;
- changes in eating and sleeping habits;
- changes in personal hygiene.
In addition, there are emotional clues which result in:
- disinterest in anything;
- mood swings;
- and major anxiety.
There are also cognitive clues that are expressed by:
- difficulty concentrating;
- lack of motivation;
- and memory loss.
Suicidal ideation can happen to everybody, but there are four factors that can influence a person's mood towards these dark thoughts.
Predisposing factors are related to a person's life history. The individual becomes more vulnerable and prone to suicidal thoughts when he experiences or has experienced mental health problems, drug and alcohol addiction, or chronic physical health problems.
Contributing factors are behaviours or events which increase the already present suicide risk level, such as difficult interpersonal relationships, refusal to ask for help or lack of a support network.
Triggering factors are one-time events likely to increase an at-risk person's feeling of vulnerability. They can also drive somebody to go through with committing suicide. They are, in some way, "the straw that broke the camel's back." Professional and romantic failures, financial difficulties or loss of employment are a few examples of these factors.
Protective factors help reduce the impact of the previous factors by widening the field of possible solutions. These include, among other things, life enhancing activities, adopting a healthy lifestyle, the ability to ask for help and a respectful and fulfilling work environment.
Suicidal intent does not appear suddenly. Before attempting suicide, a person tries everything they can to reduce suffering and solve problems. The less these methods work, the more dominant the idea of suicide becomes. However, the desire to commit suicide is reversible, however, meaning that when a person finds a solution to his problems, his suffering is reduced. As a result, suicidal ideas are less and less present.
Here are some tips for helping employees wrestling with suicidal ideation.
Making contact with the employee is the first step towards support. It is recommended to tell the employee about your concerns for him and mention some of his behavioural changes. Showing interest in helping, supporting him and referring him to the right resources is the basis for supporting a suicidal individual.
We can then ask him three key questions:
- How? Determine with the employee whether he has chosen a way to kill himself and whether this method is accessible;
- Where? Ask the employee if he has chosen the place where he is thinking of killing himself;
- When? Find out from the employee if he intends to go through with his plans at a particular time or date, or to coincide with a particular event.
Once these questions have been asked, it is advised that you ask the employee to verbalize his emotions by asking him what is causing his suicidal ideas and what factor is the most difficult to live with.
Then encourage this person to contact the employee assistance program for professional help.
You can even make a non-suicide agreement with a deadline, while reminding him of the possibility of phoning the suicide prevention centre.
It is not necessarily easy for an employee to open up to a superior while he is experiencing difficulties and is in a vulnerable position. Simply meeting with the employee in difficulty to express your concerns and refer him to the right resource is already a step in the right direction.
To find out more about this topic, we suggest you read the reference document.
In case of any questions, doubts or a specific need for support, don't hesitate to contact the specialized support service offered to the eligible individuals.